Sunday, 1 May 2016

how i evolved in april

So that's November...sorry, I mean April, over. (It was April, wasn't it??).

What went on in April? Well, I'm still not really blogging but I'm kind of planning some posts for the next month....we'll see. I stayed home and kept warm a lot. So much for walking and gardening, which were kind of on the agenda. Ah well. With that said, the cold weather was a great excuse to hole up and get some more of my novel written (see below).

My word for 2016 is EVOLVE, and I'm trying to be conscious of the small and large things I do on a daily basis that help me evolve. That is, anything that involves learning a new skill, trying something new, going somewhere new, pushing me out of my comfort zone or heading more towards the ideal life that I want to live.

This was how April went:

  • I managed to blag a free online course on how to become a creative entrepreneur (loving it so far - whether I put the advice into practice remains to be seen)
  • I finished my short story and angel healing courses
  • I finished my reiki case studies
  • I had my winning story published in Writing Magazine
  • I tried out two crystal healing treatments on willing victims
  • I meditated every day, which means I managed to meditate for 100 straight days!
  • I wrote 5000 words of my novel, which was my target for the month
  • I booked a trip to Glasgow in May and a trip to Belfast in June
  • I went on one of the local walks in my walking book
  • I wrote and submitted one short story every week
  • I changed bank accounts to one with much more interest (doesn't sound like a big deal but I've had the same current account since 1997)
  • Despite the weather, I did get out more and managed to socialise at least once a week, which is pretty impressive for me

God, the good weather has to arrive in May! Here's a loose plan of what I hope to do this month (subject to change, as always)...
  • Start my crystal healing case studies
  • Research a week abroad somewhere later in the year
  • Pick a magazine to pitch an article to
  • Meditate every day
  • Make my own eco-friendly deodorant
  • Pick a new tattoo design
  • Finish my novel plan
  • Do another walk from my book
  • Do some blogging!

How was your April? Any plans for May?

Thursday, 28 April 2016

the story of a forgotten camera

**I was looking through my archives and found this post that I'd forgotten about! It's so lovely that I felt it needed to be shown to the world again**

Not so long ago, an Edinburgh photographer bought an original 1960s Diana camera from a charity shop. Inside the camera was a roll of film, and in the box was a letter to the owner from a developing studio in Glasgow, dated 1986 and advising them that the film could only be developed at a price of £1.90 per print (which, in 1986, wasn’t cheap).

The photographer developed the prints and was intrigued as to how the camera had ended up in an Edinburgh charity shop, especially considering the fact the owners address was in Thurso, Caithness (note to non-Scottish readers – Thurso is nearly 300 miles north of Edinburgh). He did some detective work and established that the owner was still alive and living at the same address, so he decided to send copies of the prints to them, along with a letter explaining how he came to be in possession of the camera.

The ‘original owner’ was my mother, and the photos were of family and neighbours from when she lived in Bower with her mum in the 60s. In true Diana style, they're wonderfully dream-like and nostalgic; a beautiful record of a forgotten time.

The mystery isn't completely solved though, as Mother has no recollection of the camera or of taking the pictures. She's in one of them, so it's likely that someone else took them.

We know how it ended up in an Edinburgh charity shop though - my cousin, who had lived in Edinburgh for years, moved house recently and recalls a camera from when she cleared out her house. How she had it, is anyone's guess. As is how/why my mother sent it off for developing in 1986. However that was the year Granny died so its likely that she found it among her possessions.

My mum intends to show the photos to other family members who were in them, in the hope that someone recalls who took them. Simply because it would be nice to know. My money's on my granny but it would be nice if someone could remember.

Friday, 22 April 2016

on working the four day week

Back in January I applied for voluntary redundancy. I had plans. I would get a year's pay which I could probably stretch to 18 months. During that time I would write a lot, learn new things, maybe do some part time work (in reality I'd have been more likely to sleep a lot, read and faff about, but still...). It wasn't to be though, but I'll forever be glad I was brave enough to take that chance. As an alternative, I also applied to cut my weekly hours from 35 to 30, to go from 5 days of 7 hours, to 4 days of 7.5 hours. This was approved, and started on 1st April.

I already know its going to be one of the best decisions I've ever made

The pay cut isn't ideal but I can totally live just as comfortably, and its a good trade-off for an extra day devoted to other parts of my life. I had grown disillusioned with my job, but now it doesn't seem so bad. I only work one more day than I have off. It feels so much more balanced. I feel so much more balanced.

My day off is usually a Monday. I get up at the same time as work days, I exercise and meditate as normal. But then I write - I work on short stories or my novel. I go for a walk along the beach. I meet my mum or my sister for lunch. I do coursework. I drink cafetiere coffee rather than instant coffee. I cook proper meals for lunch, rather than salads or sandwiches in plastic tubs. I do annoying nagging errands like going to the bank or the post office, rather than rushing home to do them after work.

Its wonderful and I wish I'd done it years ago. Life feels slower, but in a good way. I can't say I'd never go full-time again because who knows what's round the corner, but for now, this is how life is, and it's pretty good.

Friday, 1 April 2016

how I evolved in march

I don't know how to feel about blogging any more. I still want to do this series, for my own sake, but yeah....I don't know if its worth doing or not. I still read blogs, but mostly on my phone, which doesn't let me comment. And I still have loads of ideas for posts but I'm torn between making it a personal blog or making it that bit less personal. I don't know how much to share any more. I'm torn between explaining some really weird yet amazing experiences I had this month, and keeping them to myself because they're that weird. So I'm going to do the latter, because I don't  think I actually want to write about it yet.

So, March. We're a quarter of the way through the year. I felt ill for a lot of March so didn't do all the things I had planned, and then my rat Nezumi fell ill and I took the decision to have her put to sleep on Easter Sunday. So its been a strange month. Not bad, just strange. I'm loving the daylight and the colourful flowers, and being able to walk along the coast again. The world is coming back to life.

My word for 2016 is EVOLVE, and I'm trying to be conscious of the small and large things I do on a daily basis that help me evolve. That is, anything that involves learning a new skill, trying something new, going somewhere new, pushing me out of my comfort zone or heading more towards the ideal life that I want to live.

I didn't do a lot of outward evolving in March, although I did a lot of inner evolving which, as I said, I'm not sure I'm ready to write about yet. I feel different and I'm seeing things differently, which is good because I've been stuck in this weird 'I'm so pissed off with life' funk, yet at the same time I've been perfectly happy with life. Its been odd, but I get it now.

Anyway, enough weirdness. This was March:

  • I did a three-week course on generating ideas for magazine articles (which is still ongoing).I hope to write a separate post about this some time
  • I applied to be a judge for a short story competition
  • I won first prize in a writing competition
  • I sold another story to Take a Break Fiction Feast
  • I made my own ketchup (it was....ok)
  • I meditated every day; I'm aiming for 100 consecutive days (at 93 days so far)
  • I got my chimney swept
  • I tidied out and sorted my garage (God, this has been bugging me for such a long time)
  • I wrote and submitted one short story every week

So it doesn't seem like a lot to me, but its all steps in the right direction and I feel great about life right now. I feel like I've cleared a lot of mental and physical space in life and I'm ready for whatever comes next. April has a few tasks carried over from lazy March, plus a few newer things:

  • Finish the short story and angel healing courses
  • Finish my Reiki case studies
  • Try a crystal therapy treatment on someone
  • Meditate every day
  • Book some trips/holidays for later in the year
  • Write 5000 words of my novel
  • Go on a walk (I've bought a book of local walks, some of which I've never done and really want to do)
  • Get out of the house! I've spent so much of March holed up at home, working through things, that I need to get back out into the world and meet people

How was your March? Any plans for April?

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

how I evolved in February

I think February has been an all-round better month for everyone. And it was certainly more productive for me than January was. It's nice to see some hints of spring, too; crocuses, snowdrops, daffodil shoots, crows collecting twigs for their nests, buds on the trees. This weekend was lovely; Saturday was so nice that it felt more like early April than late February, and the days are starting to get that bit longer, yay!

I've lost my blogging enthusiasm though; for some reason just now I find it easier to think clearly and figure out my own ideas if I avoid being online as much as possible. I'm not abandoning the blog as I have a tonne of post ideas, but right now I don't have the inspiration to write them, and if I'm honest I'm enjoying the time away from it all.

My word for 2016 is EVOLVE, and I'm trying to be conscious of the small and large things I do on a daily basis that help me evolve. That is, anything that involves learning a new skill, trying something new, going somewhere new, pushing me out my comfort zone or heading more towards the ideal life I'd like to live.

I didn't try many new things in February, which was fine as it was more about tying up loose ends and getting some faffy tasks out of the way. I had eight ideas for February, and I managed seven, plus a few extras. I also read six books, which is the most I've read in ages, so expect a review post soon.

  • I finished my crocheted cushion cover (only took me two years, y'know...)
  • I learned to darn, and darned my pile of holey socks (they're been lying on the spare room floor for almost a year)
  • I dyed my zip-up top that had bleach stains on it (it's been waiting about three years. Noticing a theme here?...)
  • I tidied out the overflowing cupboard above the kettle 
  • I paid off my smallest student loan, yay!!! This was a huge boost and I've really been throwing money at it this year, so I'm very pleased
  • I meditated every day; I'm aiming for 100 consecutive days (at 62 days so far)
  • I tried Bowen therapy for my back and shoulder pain. Sadly, the effects did not last
  • I wrote and submitted one short story every week
  • I did my next level of Reiki training - just need to do my case studies and I'll be done
  • I managed to complete just two of the courses I'm currently doing - photography and crystal healing. The angel card reading and short story courses are almost there but I just didn't have time
  • I took on two 'difficult' rats, who are now getting settled. Nezumi (my remaining older rat) appears to have a small mammary tumour, just like her sister did, so sadly her days may be numbered - she's well over two now though, so I can't complain too much

My theme for March will be planning out the rest of the year. I didn't get voluntary redundancy, which has proven to be a huge disappointment, but I should be getting reduced hours, so if nothing else from April onwards I should be on a 4 day week, yay! So March is looking like this:

  • Finish the short story and angel healing courses
  • Finish my Reiki case studies
  • Try a crystal therapy treatment on someone
  • Meditate every day
  • Get my chimney swept
  • Do the online article writing course I've signed up for
  • Do some coding
  • Book some trips/holidays for later in the year
  • Write 5000 words of my novel
  • Start a new knitting/crochet project

How was your February? Any plans for March?

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Changing of the Seasons

*Originally blogged 10th Feb 2015 - reposting because I feel the same way this year!*

Every so often, I lose my thread in life. Apathy and lethargy take over and every day feels like wading through treacle. I struggle to sleep at night, and get out of bed in the morning. Writing, blogging, anything that takes any kind of effort, falls to the wayside. My thoughts are muddled, fuzzy, and I feel overwhelmed and struggle to think straight. I can do the basics - look after myself, go to work and do what I have to, cook and keep the house relatively clean. But everything feels like a struggle, until I can shake off this mental, physical, creative and even spiritual, fatigue.

I'm coming through a phase of this just now. It usually lasts a week to ten days, I think this time its been about a week. I've been late for work both days this week (which is OK as I have time to use up), plus I was late at the end of last week and had long lies at the weekends. I've hardly written a word, and I've had this constant feeling of overwhelm. I've often wondered what causes this and I've kept meaning to keep a record. It's too rare to be anything to do with my monthly cycle (which gets the blame for a lot of other sins), but I had another theory which was a bit new age-y but not impossible. I'm now close to thinking that my theory is right.

A good thing I've discovered about my morning pages, is that I can look back and see what I was thinking on a particular day in a previous year. And from the 4th until 10th February 2014, I was feeling exactly - I mean exactly - the same as I've felt this year.

Today is the first day this year that's really felt like spring. The starlings and sparrows at work seemed livelier than normal, the weather was mild and the sun was shining, yellow crocuses had appeared in the garden. I  still struggled to get out of bed but compared to yesterday, I had more energy throughout the day and right now, I feel like I can see and think clearly, I feel ready for action.

I wonder if this lethargy is connected to the change in season. I'm not the only person in my life complaining of unusual tiredness just now, and I'm a firm believer that nature influences us more than we realise. It'll be interesting, over the course of the year, to see if my other tired phases occur as one season changes to another. I wonder if its a form of transition; some sort of downtime as we prepare to face the next season with renewed vigor and a fresh mindset.

Either way, I'm ready for spring. 

Does this happen to you? Have you been in a bit of a slump lately? 

(EDIT - googled this after posting and it does appear to be A Thing...)

Thursday, 4 February 2016

life lessons from a pet rat

My rat, Yuureii, died at the end of January. She'd had a mammary tumour since last October and I'd decided against surgery on the grounds she was over two, and it would be a lot of stress for possibly not much extra life expectancy. As it was, she was perfectly well until the day before she died although she'd lost a lot of weight. She went rapidly downhill (as small animals do) and died in my arms on a Monday evening.

Yuureii was never keen on being handled, but she loved hiding inside my cardigan or pockets, where she would sleep. We eventually bonded in a way I never expected with such a difficult character, and she taught me more than I probably ever taught her. Yes,  animals don't have the same understanding of life as we do, but that doesn't mean we can't learn from them. And here's what I learned from a feisty albino rat with an attitude problem.

Patience and perseverance pay off
I rehomed Yuureii and her sister Nezumi when they were a year old, in July 2014. Nezumi was laidback and easy from the start, whereas Yuureii was awkward and scatty, and I had many painful bites to prove that point. I couldn't hold her for the first few weeks; I would catch her in a box then sit on the stairs while I let her run around on my lap and explore the stairs until she gradually got used to me.

It was tempting just to leave her as a cage rat and focus on the amiable Nezumi. But I didn't; I persevered for weeks. Weeks of just sitting on the stairs watching her run around, and learning to anticipate her moves so I could figure out how best to pick her up without losing a finger. I couldn't rush things; they had to be done at her pace, so that's how we worked. And we got there in the end. She simply didn't like being handled, but we compromised.

Be yourself even if no one else likes it
No one else was keen on Yuureii. Adam didn't mind her but he much preferred Nezumi, likewise with my sister. And to be honest, if a visitor wanted to hold a rat, I wouldn't give them Yuureii anyway. If she bit me, fine, but I'd rather she didn't bite others.

She just was who she was, whether people liked it or not, and she was perfectly happy. Not that I'm suggesting its OK to go around biting people, but its a reminder that we'll always be happier in ourselves if we actually be ourselves, and that it doesn't matter if people like us or not. Nezumi and I liked her regardless, and we were the only rat and person (??) who mattered in her tiny world.

Adapt to changes
Yuureii's tumour started small but was almost 7cm diameter when she died. Sometimes it got in her way - she couldn't climb as much as she did, and the extra weight meant her balance was sometimes off, but mostly she accepted it. She would sit and groom it, and she learned a new method of getting into her hammock with less effort.

That isn't to say she didn't try to fight it. She would still try to run along my arms even though she was at a much greater risk of falling, and she occasionally fell from the platform in the cage because she had misjudged it. But she would pick herself up and keep going, finding ways to adapt and live her life as best she could.

When the time comes to go, go
Watching Yuureii die was heart breaking. I had booked her in to be euthanized the next morning but as the evening wore on I knew she wouldn't make it through the night. I worried she was suffering but on hindsight it was fair to say she mostly just slept until a small battle at the end as she fought for breath. It wasn't much of a fight though; just an instinctive attempt to keep breathing before she succumbed.

Its kind of hard to put into words what I took from this. More of a knowing than something I can explain (which sounds stupidly profund, but there you go). It made me feel the same way that autumn does - sad yet somehow accepting. I guess death is one of the few inevitable things in life, and the one thing we all have in common. Its as much a part of life as anything else, and in itself is nowhere near as scary as we think - our fears are more attached to loss and the thought of suffering.

Everyone deserves a chance
Every time Yuureii curled up asleep inside my cardigan, and on the rare occasions she would sit in my hand, I took great pride in both myself and her for getting to this stage. It's amazing how much difference time and perseverance made to her. With that in mind, I've now adopted two more older rats who were struggling to find an home because they have various issues. I'm hoping to give them a loving home and a chance to flourish, like Yuureii did.

What lessons have you learned from your pets? Those that have died or that are still with you